Comic Review: Batman: Three Jokers

Published: November 17th, 2020
Written by: Geoff Johns
Art by: Jason Fabok

DC Comics, 161 Pages

Review:

I enjoyed this story and its concept quite a bit. But generally, I’ve been a fan of Geoff Johns’ writing since he took over Green Lantern in the mid-’00s.

This isn’t really a canonical story but then again, nothing that’s modern DC really is to me anymore because they’ve rebooted their universe more times than my Uncle Terry has created children out of wedlock.

The story does directly build off of the events of classic Batman stories The Killing Joke and A Death In the Family. With that, it also utilizes Batgirl and Red Hood in the story, as it brings their issues with the Joker full circle and provides some closure to him crippling Batgirl and “killing” Red Hood when he was Robin.

The reason why the story is called “The Three Jokers” is because there are three Jokers. Each one represents a different version of the character, as he’s been used historically. One is the “criminal” Joker, another is the “comedian” Joker and the last is the “clown” Joker. The story plays off of their differences and the heroes aren’t sure which one is the real Joker or if possibly there’s been more than one all along. However, by the end, we see that there’s a much bigger, more sinister scheme at play and it’s revealed that Batman has always known who the real Joker is, all the way down to his real identity.

The story was very noir-esque, which isn’t uncommon for a Batman story but this one had so many curveballs that it just fits within that genre’s framework quite well.

Admittedly, I got to a point in the story where I started to think that the whole thing was ridiculous. By the end, though, it all came together in a really cool way and it seemed a lot less ridiculous and like something that would fit within the Joker’s larger worldview and his and Batman’s place in it.

I also really, really liked the art. I don’t know much about Jason Fabok but he captivated me, here, and I’ll be on the lookout for some of his other work. Frankly, I’d like to see him and Johns maybe work on a follow up to this and create their own unique continuity within Batman, similar to what Sean Gordon Murphy has been doing the last few years.

Rating: 8/10

Comic Review: X-Force – Epic Collection: Under the Gun

Published: March 22nd, 2017
Written by: Rob Liefeld, Fabian Nicieza, Todd McFarlane, various
Art by: Rob Liefeld, Greg Capullo, Todd McFarlane, Mike Mignola, Mark Pacella, Darick Robertson, Terry Shoemaker, various 

Marvel Comics, 463 Pages

Review:

Man, oh, f’n man… it’s been ages since I’ve read the Rob Liefeld era of X-Force. When I was a kid, I thought that this was the greatest new series Marvel had but I also think I was convincing myself of that, as Rob Liefeld was a hot commodity and I was also a fan of The New Mutants, which this was born out of. Besides, there was just so much hype at the time and I was at a pretty impressionable age.

Reading this now, I still found it really enjoyable and was surprised that I liked it as much as I did.

However, I also know that the story essentially came from Liefeld like bullet points and then it was handed to ace writer Fabian Nicieza, who actually wrote all the dialogue and massaged Liefeld’s notes into a usable script. After Liefeld left the series to co-found Image Comics, Nicieza stayed on as the writer and worked with other greats like Greg Capullo and Mike Mignola.

Now looking at the other side of this, creatively, the art isn’t great and even if I loved Liefeld when I was in 7th grade, I see the issues with his art much more clearly now. However, I don’t want to shit all over the guy like everyone else has done for years. I just notice the issues he has with anatomy and perspective.

It’s worth mentioning, though, that the art did improve once Liefeld stepped away, which happened about two-thirds into this collection.

As far as the story goes, I really got reinvested in this and want to keep reading it. Possibly beyond where I stopped when I was buying this month-after-month, which was about four or five years into the series.

Additionally, this also reminded me of how much I liked some of the long forgotten characters that were so cool in 1991. Characters like G.W. Bridge, Garrison Kane and the other people associated with them and Cable’s past.

Rating: 7.5/10

Comic Review: Superman: Doomsday

Published: April 5th, 2016
Written by: Dan Jurgens
Art by: Brett Breeding, Dan Jurgens, Norm Rapmund

DC Comics, 332 Pages

Review:

Well, Superman is already alive and we’ve reached the fifth and final part of the Death/Return of Superman saga. With that, this story takes care of the last thing that needs to be dealt with and that’s Superman finally defeating Doomsday without dying and thus, restoring balance the the DC universe.

Generally, I like Dan Jurgens writing but overall, I wasn’t blown away by this saga. However, I did find this to be better than all the big DC Comics Crisis events, which always read like overloaded, convoluted messes to me.

While these stories had a lot of characters in them, Superman was always really the focus and for the most part, this stayed on that thread, even if there were some distractions with new “Supermen” and with checking in on individuals after Superman’s death.

I felt like the art, here, was a bit more fine-tuned and better than the rest of the chapters in this massive saga.

Additionally, the writing felt tighter and more focused, as Jurgens pretty much handled it all and the work wasn’t spread out over a handful of people.

The highlights of this are that Superman is definitely back, we get to see Darkseid mix it up with Doomsday, Cyborg Superman cements his place as a major villain, and Doomsday finally gets some receipts cashed in on his ass.

In the end, I’m glad that I finally experienced this saga in its entirety. It was long but by the end, the total body of work made all of the smaller parts come together, giving them deeper meaning and relevance to the overall DC universe. 

Rating: 7/10

Comic Review: Wolverine: The Jungle Adventure

Published: 1989
Written by: Walt Simonson
Art by: Mike Mignola

Marvel Comics, 49 Pages

Review:

I have never read this comic and for that, I feel ashamed.

I love Wolverine, especially his solo adventures of this era, and The Jungle Adventure just features him and Apocalypse duking it out in the Savage Land. Well, there is a big twist to that fight but yes, Apocalypse is in this.

Also, it’s really damn cool seeing a Wolverine comic drawn by Mike Mignola, which wouldn’t have meant as much to elementary school me in 1989. However, I like looking at Mignola’s earlier work and seeing how its grown and evolved since, as he has one of the most unique and patented art styles in comics.

This is also written by Walter Simonson, who did a lot of great comics that I’ve loved for decades. Many of which I’ve returned to and re-read multiple times.

Additionally, this was one of those Marvel graphic novel one-shots. Those always had a harder edge to them, as they did things that they couldn’t do in the regular monthly comics.

All that being said, this is a near perfect storm of a lot of great things coming together in a very satisfying way.

This is a quick but engaging read. However, I still took my time with it as I wanted to absorb Mignola’s art.

In the end, this is now one of my favorite Marvel one-shot releases during their ’80s and ’90s graphic novel run. 

Rating: 8.25/10

Comic Review: Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D – Masterworks, Vol. 3

Published: February 15th, 2018
Written by: Jim Steranko, Gary Friedrich, Roy Thomas, Archie Goodwin, Ernie Hart, Steve Parkhouse
Art by: Jim Steranko, Frank Springer, Herb Trimpe, Barry Windsor-Smith, Dick Ayers, Sal Buscema

Marvel Comics, 309 Pages

Review:

I started with Masterworks, Vol. 3 because it is a collection of what’s considered to be the most beloved work featuring Nick Fury, as the solo star of his own stories.

This also takes the character, puts him in S.H.I.E.L.D. and makes him a cool, hip superspy, as opposed to a military hero on the battlefields of war.

Marvel, like everyone else at the time, wanted to capitalize off of the ’60s spy craze that started with the first James Bond film, Dr. No in 1962. That movie inspired its own sequels, a slew of rip-offs, parodies, pulp novels and comics. So, instead of creating a new character, Marvel reworked one that was already pretty popular but existed in a genre that was drying up.

A lot of this is written and has art done by Jim Steranko. A lot of people worked on the issues in this collection, though, but Steranko is the guy that has always been given most of the credit for this groovy reinvention of Nick Fury.

Tapping into the ’60s era spy genre, this is trippy and colorful and it stands out in a really unique way when compared to the other Marvel titles of the time. I love the hell out of the art and the style in these comics and it’s why I’ve picked up a lot of the single issues, over the years.

I was never as captivated by the stories, as much as I was by the visuals, however. But the stuff featuring Nick Fury fighting Hydra and the multi-issue arc pitting him against the Hate-Monger were really damn enjoyable.

I never got to read all of these issues and experience the bigger picture. I’m glad that I finally did, though, as it’s really different than what was the standard ’60s Marvel fare. Plus, it’s also infinitely better than anything Marvel’s doing these days.

Rating: 7.75/10

TV Review: Chōjin Sentai Jetman (1991-1992)

Original Run: February 15th, 1991 – February 14th, 1992
Created by: Toei
Directed by: Keita Amemiya
Written by: various
Music by: Kazuhiko Toyama, Hironobu Kageyama (themes)
Cast: Kōtarō Tanaka, Rika Kishida, Tomihisa Naruse, Sayuri Uchida, Toshihide Wakamatsu

Toei Company, 51 Episodes, 25 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

It’s been ages since I watched a Super Sentai series and because of that, I’m now way behind on the stuff that Shout! Factory has released in the United States. So I figured I really needed to jump on it and experience more of this great, classic tokusatsu program.

For those that might not know, this series was originally intended to be the one that they were going to use to create the first season of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. However, producers of that show ended up using its successor, Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger.

With that, this is the first Sentai show that I’ve watched that wasn’t turned into a Power Rangers series. This also makes it the oldest show that I’ve seen in the franchise.

Overall, this was damn enjoyable if kid friendly tokusatsu is your thing.

The thing I liked most was the characters. For the most part, this set of heroes were well-balanced, pretty well developed and they had great chemistry with each other. I especially liked how the bond evolved between Ryū a.k.a. Red Hawk and Gai a.k.a. Black Condor evolved over the course of the show. By the end, these two guys were complete badasses and honestly, either of them could’ve been team leader.

I also really liked Ako a.k.a. Blue Swallow. She was a cool character with some good stories and she might be my favorite female hero that I’ve seen out of all the Sentai shows I’ve watched, thus far.

Like the heroes, the villains were a really cool team that also had solid chemistry. I love that they were only really unified in trying to destroy the Jetman team and to dominate the world. I loved the power struggles between them, how they evolved over the series and ultimately, how they probably could’ve won had they not allowed their egos to make them work against one another.

Looking beyond the cool characters and story, I also dug the hell out of the look of the show. I thought the Jetman team’s costumes were superb and they are definitely one of the best looking Sentai teams of all-time.

This series also had some cool monsters. The real standout, I thought, was the ramen cup noodles monster. He just had a cool design and any monster that shoots out shrimp boomerangs is going to leave an impression.

Chōjin Sentai Jetman is pretty high up on the short list of the Super Sentai shows I’ve watched. However, this is only my fifth and there are a lot more to experience. I think that this one will maintain a spot close to the top, though.

Rating: 8.25/10

Comic Review: The Return of Superman

Published: April 5th, 2016
Written by: Gerard Jones, Dan Jurgens, Karl Kesel, Louise Simonson, Roger Stern
Art by: Jon Bogdanove, M.D. Bright, Tom Grummett, Jackson Guice

DC Comics, 464 Pages

Review:

Well, this is a step up from the previous two volumes in the larger The Death/Return of Superman saga. This is also the fourth of the five big chapters but now that Superman is back, we can stop spending time on mediocre replacements and get back to business.

The four replacements are still here, however, but now they have to find their place in the world with Superman reclaiming his mantle.

Two of these replacements remain heroes and two let their villain flags finally fly for all to see. Where these characters would end up wasn’t a surprise, though.

I think that the most impactful thing about this story isn’t simply Superman’s return, as much as it was seeing him return to Lois after all she had been through in the previous three chapters of this multi-year saga.

Once Superman actually returns, you’re not totally sure it’s him but as a reader, you hope it is and it’s really a breath of fresh air, as the replacements just didn’t cut it. I also think that DC Comics knew this and brought the famed hero back earlier than they probably wanted to.

Regardless, it’s good that he did return, as it was like a shot in the arm to this story, which I found myself losing interest in. Had I been buying these and reading them back when they were current, I know that I would’ve stopped before we even got to the return.

In the end, I’m not super keen on these books, beyond the pretty emotional battle that ended with Superman’s death. Although, this did make up for some of the lower points a bit and it sets up the next showdown between Supes and Doomsday, the jerk that killed him.

Rating: 6.5/10

Comic Review: Thor by Kieron Gillen

Published: April 17th, 2019
Written by: Kieron Gillen
Art by: Doug Braithwaite, Richard Elson, Niko Henrichon, Jamie McKelvie, Billy Tan, Mico Suayan (cover)

Marvel Comics, 312 Pages

Review:

This stretch of Thor follows the incredible J. Michael Straczynski run and also happens alongside the Siege event.

Sadly, I wasn’t quite ready for Straczynski to hand over the reins, as he hadn’t finished the big plot threads that he started. However, Kieron Gillen did a pretty good job picking up where Straczynski left off while also having to work around Brian Michael Bendis’ Siege.

I thought that this was consistent with Straczynski’s tone and style. Although, the latter issues and Siege stuff started to go in different directions art-wise. None of it was bad but I found some sections to have too much contrast with the rest of the book.

The early parts of this deal with Doctor Doom’s plot against Asgard and you have a pretty good fight between Thor and Doom, who is wearing The Destroyer like a mecha-suit.

After there is closure from the Doom stuff, this shows the Siege event from different perspectives and then follows the fallout from that event, which shows Asgard get wrapped up in a plot by Mephisto.

While I enjoyed this pretty thoroughly, it didn’t “wow” me on the level of the Straczynski stories. Still, it also doesn’t torpedo what Straczynski created with his new take on this small pocket of the Marvel universe.

Rating: 8/10

Comic Review: Captain America – Epic Collection: Streets of Poison

Published: June 17th, 2015
Written by: Mark Gruenwald, D.G. Chichester, Randall Frenz, Fabian Nicieza, Dann Thomas, Roy Thomas
Art by: Larry Alexander, Mark Bagley, Ron Frenz, Don Hudson, Ron Lim, Mike Manley, Chris Marrinan, Jim Valentino, Ron Wilson

Marvel Comics, 493 Pages

Review:

I really liked the Streets of Poison storyline when I was a kid. I was also really pumped to jump right into this Epic Collection, as the previous one was pretty exceptional.

However, this didn’t read as good as it did when I was eleven years-old but lots of things don’t and that also doesn’t mean this was bad.

I like this era of Captain America and revisiting it makes me appreciate it even more, even if it’s not as perfect as I remembered it.

This kicks off with the Streets of Poison arc, which is highlighted by a fight between Red Skull and the Kingpin. I thought that this rivalry between the two villains and everything leading up to their fight was really solid. You had Crossbones trying to take out Kingpin with Bullseye trying to take out Red Skull and the two assassins having their own fight. Additionally, Captain America fights both of them as well.

My only real gripe about the story was how being exposed to drugs altered Cap’s behavior pretty immensely. It bonded with the super solider serum in his body and the only way to cure Cap was to remove his blood and fix the serum. However, Cap, being strongly anti-drug after this experience, rejected the serum and decided to move forward as a normal man and not the creation of a drug he took back in the 1940s.

Following Streets of Poison, we got the story of the Serpent Society abducting Diamondback and trying her for her crimes against the Society. King Cobra and his minions rule against Diamondback harshly but she survives her execution when Cap finds her. Diamondback’s allies within the Serpent Society leave the group as well and they start to establish themselves as a new heroic group.

There are a couple single issue stories weaved into the bigger tapestry, here. None of them were bad and they honestly just showed how solid the writing at Marvel was in this era.

Rating: 8.5/10